“Yes, I would do it again.” Those were the words of a Ghanaian-born, Harvard-bound Massachusetts high school graduate who gave away her $40,000 scholarship to someone who might have a real need for it. Verda Tetteh climbed the podium during her graduation to give back the award bestowed on her for being an A student through high school.
None of the school officials at Fitchburg High School or her family expected her to give away the scholarship that would have been given to her in tranches of $10,000 throughout her four years at Harvard, WBZ reported.
However, looking at the already existing scholarships and financial aids she has received from Harvard, Tetteh told CNN that she felt the need to give to another student who may struggle to pay their way through community college.
“Whatever happens, someone else needed it more. I’m excited to see who it helps and how that changes their life, so I’m so happy that God gave me the strength to do that,” Verda told WBZ. “No one had the chance to say, ‘Don’t give away $40,000!’”
Initially, Tetteh accepted the award but after reflecting on the words of the school’s assistant principal Jeremy Roche, who urged the students at the graduation last Friday to be “bold and selfless,” she knew she could part ways with the General Excellence Award scholarship with no regrets because she would be helping someone, the kind of help she wishes her mother had while in community college.
Her mother, Rosemary, migrated to the United States from Ghana to chase her American dream, but life set in, and she had to work 80 hours a week to make ends meet at home. At the age of 47, Rosemary finally earned her college degree from a community college. Tetteh knew she could be a blessing to someone else who needs that extra support.
Rosemary, like everyone at the ceremony, was “in shock” but she could not be prouder of the person her 17-year-old daughter is becoming.
“I just knew she’s ready for me to let her be on her own,” she said. “I’m not afraid, and I’m not sad about it that someone’s going to get some good help. If I had gotten that help, I would have been thrilled.”
Roche could not believe his ears either when Tetteh began her speech, and he was “moved by her generosity”. The school is looking for ways to re-appropriate the funds according to Tetteh’s wishes. Roche however added that the recipient has not yet been selected.
“When she started speaking on the microphone, I was overwhelmed,” Roche told CNN. “I think a lot of people in the stadium were, honestly. I was so moved by her generosity.”
Tetteh is very optimistic about the future. She is heading to Harvard to study chemistry on a pre-med track.